Eliot Hodgkin and Madame de Pompadour in the Frame

Once again Waddesdon is bringing us something new and something old. Neil Hennessy-Vass reports

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This excellent country house that offers a permanent collection of note, as well as splendid grounds, offers regular thoughtfully curated exhibitions. The latest is no exception. Eliot Hodgkin’s work was last exhibited in the 1990s but you’d be forgiven for not knowing or being familiar with his work. He has slipped under the radar somewhat and Waddesdon is doing their best quite rightly to correct that.

Brought to Life: Eliot Hodgkin Rediscovered is the first major exhibition of his work for nearly 30 years with nearly 100 pieces and sets out to give him the high esteem he deserves as his work is sublime, subtle and quite beautiful.

Born in 1905 he specialised in the ordinary and normal. Still life and landscapes were his playgrounds. It’s the simple objects and plant studies that look so strong now with the distance of time and (I think) their historical context. Working in oils and tempura, which he preferred as it gave the rendering of fine detail he craved in his paintings. In the 1930s he established himself as a painter of still lifes, murals and landscapes and exhibited at the Royal Academy. This collection is drawn from public and private ownership and is unlikely to be seen again.

Due to a withered arm he was not called up for military service but worked as a night watchman and ambulance driver during the war. It was during this period that I believe he created his style of the ordinary. Finding flowers growing in bombsites and painting them was a kind of antidote for him to the horrors of the conflict. Others show simple studies such as six chillies or a peeled lemon these paintings in my mind are the strongest ones on show.

Technology is playing an increasing role in art these days and a new exhibition intending to expand our understanding of art and its form. A collaboration with the Factum Foundation who specialise in high-resolution digital scanning technology has recreated Francois Boucher’s famous portrait of Madame de Pompadour from 1756 in the frame that the original was initially housed and once owned by the Rothschild’s family, owners of Waddesdon. The process involved taking a detailed contour scan of the painting then making a latex mould for the exact texture of the painting and combining it with a scan that measures to 0.1mm in accuracy. The exhibition has been designed by Skene Catling de la Pena and has an accompanying film and many stills illustrating this incredible process. The end result is a stunning facsimile that dominates the room it is displayed in.

These two very interesting exhibitions looking at different aspects of the art world and its treasures are running until late October 2019.

For more information go to www.waddesdon.org.uk or call

Waddesdon Manor
HP18 0JH
Tel: 01296 820414